God’s Promise

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Last June outside the village of Batar, a neighboring village of Peterfalva, this beautiful scene unexpectedly emerged.  The wheat in middle June beginning to turn golden for harvest, illuminated by the descending early evening sun. The dark clouds of an approaching summer thunderstorm.  Falling rain in the distance giving the rising Carpathian Mountains a surreal deep sea blue color.  Cutting through this creational portrait, a rainbow representing the God’s long ago promise to Noah to never destroy the earth by flood again.  The beauty of God’s creation never grows old; it never grows tiring to take time out of busy day to gaze upon the majesty of God’s creation.  This scene was particularly fitting for Ukraine.  The yellow and blue flag of Ukraine represents a wheat field under a brilliant blue sky not so unlike this particular image.  The rainbow not only reminded me of God’s promise not to destroy the earth by flood, but it also reminds me of all of God’s promises.  Promises to never leave or forsake us if we believe in Him and put our trust in Him; a promise Ukraine and this whole world needs to be daily reminded of.

Vachartyan and Vorosmart Camps

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A cozy and quiet village outside of Budapest and near the famed Danube bend is the next stop of our English camp and outreach summer programs.  For the 8th summer in a row we have been working with Barnabas and Livia Geregly at their church in Vachartyan, Hungary in organizing a summer outreach English camp.  We are blessed to call Barnabas and Livia our dear friends.  They have been an incredible example to Stacey and I by their faith in Jesus, their devotion in marriage to one another, in raising their children, and by their dedication in sharing the Gospel with their neighbors and community.  Every summer around 50 students, ages 13-22, come for this week-long event.  Students come from 9am-4pm for English lessons, devotions and prayer, singing, games and lunch.  We love to see many familiar faces of both students and local volunteers year after year when we come to Vachartyan.  It has also been rewarding to see a number of young people who came to the camp as students who are now coming back as volunteers and helpers.  This past August two young people full of faith and love for the Lord were united in marriage after meeting in this camp four or five years ago.  What a blessing to see how God works. In both Tiszaujvaros and Vachartyan, Stacey and I are encouraged to work with local pastors who serve their communities and churches by making youth groups that we hope and pray many of the students will become a part of after the summer camp ends.  6.DSC_0565We were joined in our teaching team by David and Grace McBrier, missionaries from the nearby city of Vac, and Alexandra Krizsan, a friend and current university student.  Stacey had returned to the U.S. for the last two months of the pregnancy to await Hans’ arrival; we missed her a great deal this past summer.  I left part way through the Vachartyan camp to join her for Hans’ birth.

The last camp of the summer took place in a Hungarian village in the region of Slavonia in north eastern Croatia.  This camp is not an English camp, but rather a VBS camp.  I had to leave before the start of this camp for the birth of Hans so this camp was done without us.  We missed being there, but we were very proud of the group of university students who help us in many camps who led the camp without us.  By all accounts they did a marvelous job of leading devotions and prayer, small group discussions, games, crafts, and activities.  We are very excited to return next summer. Here is a link to more photos from these camps.  http://iccdabroad.org/photo-galleries/vachartyan-and-vorosmart-camps-2/

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Nagybereg and Tiszaujvaros English Camps

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Camps continue into the summer.  Each camp, a new location, a new setting, and a new opportunity to help students learn English and more importantly, each camp opens a door to share the Gospel.  Following the two-week camp in Peterfalva, we moved on to a second Reformed High School here in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, in the village of Nagybereg.  This camp is one week long and, because we do not organize this camp, we only have a teaching role, it allows us a little rest after the two week Peterfalva camp.  We are thankful for this opportunity to spend a week in Nagybereg and we enjoy getting to know both the students and staff at this school.  This camp was attended by about 100 students.  We enjoyed working with the staff at the Nagybereg Reformed High School and were thankful to God for the collection of volunteer teachers who came together to put this camp on.

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David Guba with Nagybereg Students

Following the Nagybereg camp we took our volunteers (who consisted at this point of Dylan, David Guba – who had joined from Canada and helped us in three camps, and Bogi and Csilla, two local university students) to Slovakia for a one day site seeing trip to the mountains.  Our next camp was in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary.  This was our second year conducting a camp with the Tiszaujvaros Hungarian Reformed Church.  We became acquainted with the church in the winter of 2015 after our van broke down on the highway near the church.  The pastors of this congregations quickly came to our aid and put us up for the night.  We are thankful to God for the friendship we share with the pastors and members of this church.  Now for a second summer in a row we praise God that we could hold a summer English and Outreach camp on the grounds of the church.  We hope and pray that through the devotions and worship and by faithfully setting a Christ-like example to the teenage students that the Holy Spirit can use these humble efforts to encourage the seed of faith to grow and flourish.  From 9am-3pm, 20-25 students from the community attended this week-long camp for English lessons, devotions and singing, games and activities, and lunch. Here is a link to more photos from these two camps.  http://iccdabroad.org/photo-galleries/nagybereg-and-tiszaujvaros-english-camps/

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Dylan Lundberg and Csilla Kodobocz leading devotions for students in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary

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Nagybereg Reformed High School students during afternoon free time. Nagybereg, Ukraine

Peterfalva English Camp

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In the deep of winter, we are surrounded by cold and long nights. These dark evenings of middle winter are often the time we spend planning for summer programs.  Hours are spent in correspondence with potential volunteers and working out details with local schools and pastors who we partner with in conducting summer English/outreach camps.  The cold crisp air and the sound of crunching snow beneath your feet makes summer seems impossibly distant.  Yet summer will be here in a blink of an eye. It is also a time to reflect on this past summer while planning for the upcoming summer.

We have not done much updating on this blog in the past year due to business of life with a newborn and an extended time in the U.S. for the birth of our son Hans. We intend to be much more active this year in blogging and hope readers will follow along.  A good place to start is with a couple of blogs looking back at our English and outreach camps from the summer of 2016.

Our first English/outreach camp this past summer was a two-week English camp in our home village of Peterfalva, at our home school, the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum. This camp is the original camp we have been a part of.  We have been partnering with the school in providing its students with a two-week language camp for the past 10 years.  The camp is part of the school curriculum and takes place every June.  We are always excited by the opportunity to spend two weeks with our students during the camp.  A typical day consists of morning English classes with sporting competitions, trivia nights, skits and many other activities happening in the afternoons and evenings.  All of the students must take part in a local service project in the community surrounding the school.  Students must choose between collecting trash at the riverside, visiting and singing for elderly and widowed women in the village, or organizing a Vacation Bible School afternoon at the local Roma kindergarten.  Days are also filled with two devotional periods led by volunteer teachers and a Singing hour.  We are thankful for this opportunity to grow closer to the students and we hope and pray that what they experienced, saw or heard in devotions will bring the students closer to God.  Enrollment at the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum has been growing and this year we had nearly 100 students at the camp.  We were thankful to the 14 volunteers who traveled to Transcarpathia to teach in the camp and spend time actively living out their faith among our students.  Our volunteers this year in Peterfalva included a team of long term missionaries working in Kyiv with The Navigators organization as well as a short-term mission team from The Navigators from Iowa State University who came to Ukraine for one month and graciously spent 10 days of their time with us.  We also had one long term volunteer from Dordt College, Dylan Lundberg, who came for two months to help us in all our camps.  We were also helped with the camp by the local staff of the Peterfalva Reformed High School and from six local university students from a nearby college.  We praise God for the help and support of so many to make these camps possible. We click on this link to see other pictures, or visit the photo galleries.  http://iccdabroad.org/photo-galleries/peterfalva-english-camp-2/

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Home

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How does a person define home?  This is a fundamental question with an answer that can be easy for some.  But for others, the answer is elusive, sought after and never found even after a life time of wandering and searching.  Where are you from?  This is an introduction question and probably one of the most commonly asked question around the world every day.  Is the answer to this question and the definition of home one in the same?  “Where are you from?”  is one of the most common questions we are asked.  I normally answer the question with Northern Michigan, not my birth place but where I spent my formidable years and the majority of my youth, and where my parents still live.  Stacey without hesitation answers the same question with Eastern North Carolina despite the fact that she was born and raised until age of 13 in British Columbia, Canada.  Hans, will likely have a much harder time articulating an easy answer to this question; it remains to be seen how he will respond to this simple yet fascinating question.

Where is your home?  This is a substantially more difficult question to answer and takes us back to the underlining question: How does a person define home?  Is home where you are currently living?  Is home where you are “from”?  Is home where you spend most of your time?  Is home reserved for describing your native homeland?  Is home the culture you were raised in?   Not even passports and citizenship can completely help define this, as both Stacey and Hans and millions of other around the world are dual citizens.  When asked where our home is we typically respond that we have three homes.  One in Peterfalva, Ukraine, the village in western Ukraine where we spend the majority of our time, and a place where we feel very at home.  Two, in eastern North Carolina where we spend the majority of our time while in the U.S. working and living, and where our home church is as well as many friends and family.  Three, in Michigan, the land of my birth and a place we still spend time with family and friends.

For the majority of people who we live and work with in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, this is a question for them on a much larger, serious, and darker historical scale.  Transcarpathia is a very rural cosmopolitan place.  Cosmopolitan seems to be a word mostly used to describe big cities, places like New York or London where hundreds if not thousands of different nationalities live.  But it is a word that I think perfectly describes Transcarpathia, which has been historically and/or currently populated by Hungarians, Roma, Ukrainians, Rusyns, Slovaks, Russians, Jews, Czechs, Romanians, Germans, Poles among others.  Transcarpathia, historically has been Hungarian, yet in the past 100 years it has belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Habsburg empire, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, The Soviet Union, and Ukraine.  Many nationalities ruled by many different governments has left Transcarpathia with a tragic history, and yet such a fascinatingly rich heritage and interesting history infused by so many people groups who have called these lands home.  I find that few places in Europe, if any, can match the level of intrigue that Transcarpathia possesses.

The definition of home remains a serious question for so many here in Transcarpathia.  When our Hungarian friends travel abroad they are often met with confused looks from people they encounter when they try to explain why they are “from” Ukraine but they are Hungarian.  Ever changing borders over the past century have been redrawn time and time again by which ever particular world power who for at the moment possessed the upper hand.  These fluid borders over the past century have resulted in villages of ethnic Hungarians living next to villages of Ukrainians and Rusyns living out century old traditions of their heritage.

Recent fighting and conflict in Eastern Ukraine and economic turmoil throughout Ukraine in the last years has ceased being current affairs in the mass Western media, but despite the complete failure of Western main stream media to report accurately on global affairs these events have not yet to become history.  Conflict in the east of Ukraine and economic hardships remain very realistic and raw current events.

Many people here in Transcarpathia, including many Hungarians have been leaving while more and more Ukrainians (some from eastern Ukraine) are moving in and replacing them. Even today with a relatively long stretch of continual nationhood (Ukraine has now existed for 25 years, marking the second longest tenure of any government ruling Transcarpathia in the past century) and unchanging borders, the ethnic situation of Transcarpathia continues to remain fluid and changing.  Hungarians of Transcarpathia (as well as Ukrainians) including many people we know here in Transcarpathia, Ukraine have joined a mass exodus of people who have left in the hopes of finding work and financial security in other parts of Europe. Most commonly Hungary, but they have also become factory workers in the Czech Republic, farm hands in Holland, hotel maids in England, construction workers in Germany and even some who have reached as distant lands as Canada.

Many people in Transcarpathia and the expanse of Ukraine have joined the masses of Syrians fleeing Middle East wars, Mexicans immigrating to the U.S., and many other people around the world who are part of a current global mass of shifting populations.  They have joined those who preceded them who passed through Elis Island, New York, and those who have immigrated to Canada in the past century and a half, or many others who have traded one culture for another fleeing wars and persecution.  They now join those who struggle with the definition of the word home. Despite the shifting populations around the world we are left with the call of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), and to love the Lord our God … and our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  This applies to us no matter where we live and no matter who are neighbor is.

There is a familiar phrase: Home is where the heart is.  This phrase is maybe overused, over simplified and cliché.  But many things are cliché for a reason, because there is an element of truth to it.  With a loving family, friends, and a church community home can be by one definition, where the heart is. Is home a place where you lay your head at night, or is home where your heart is, or is home a cultural identity, or is home a homeland of sort? Maybe the question of where is home or the question or the definition of home are not really meant to be answered from an earthly perspective.  As Christians, life on this earth is temporary, here today and gone tomorrow. Our lives are but a blink of an eye on the pages of history while we wait for our true home, our heavenly home with Jesus Christ.  We are citizens of heaven eagerly waiting to be united with Christ in our heavenly home.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Winter

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Years ago, while a student at Dordt College, an assignment for a history class was to watch the 1965 film, Dr. Zhivago.  For years, details of the story-line and themes of the movie were nothing but a disjointed collage of movie scenes.  The only lasting memory I had from the movie were the winter scenes portraying the Russian winter to be bitterly and relentlessly cold.  I can’t even remember what these movie scenes were about other than that the characters wore fur coats and hats, the men had frozen mustaches, and everyone looked terribly cold while traveling about in snowy and frozen landscapes.

We are often asked what winter is like in Ukraine.  Ukraine with a long and shared history with Russia leaves the impression for many that winters must be harsh and unbearable.  Winters in Ukraine in general fall short in comparison to a Russian or Siberian winter.  However, the winters here in Ukraine are still very comparable to winters in the Midwest region of the United States.  We have seen nights get down to zero Fahrenheit and below.  Daytime highs have only rarely reached the low 30’s and winds have been bitter.  We have been greeted upon our return to Ukraine with one of the colder winters they have seen in some years.  The nearby mountains are covered in snow. Snow is abundant everywhere and roads have been covered with ice and frozen ridges of snow.  Sidewalks and road edges are most treacherous of all with a solid layer of ice inches thick.  The cold weather and ice have made it difficult to get around and has certainly left us a bit more home bound than we would prefer.

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Trying to walk on the street

 

Days are short as darkness descends by 4p.m. leaving the impression that everyone hibernates in the evening.  Despite this, the winter is lovely in its own way, and a beautiful aspect of God’s creation.  While waiting for spring, we have appreciated winter and are thankful for a warm house and a hot cup of tea.

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English Class

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Do you speak English???

Weekly we are thankful to God for the opportunity to hold elective English lessons for the students at the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum, in the village where we live and work.  The students receive English grammar and language lessons from a qualified English teacher, much in the same way that many of us learned Spanish in high school.  The classes we offer provide an opportunity for students to speak with native English speakers and to put into practice what they are learning in the classroom.  Our classes fall on Mondays and Tuesdays due to the already demanding schedule of the students.  We have been amazed that each week between 40-60 students attend our 4 different classes.  Each of the four grades, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th, have the opportunity to come for a 50-minute lesson in the afternoons and evenings with us.  Most of the time we teach these classes together.  At times, though, when we are taken in opposite directions by multiple commitments and/or opportunities, only one of us teaches the lesson.

Our lessons are not compulsory for the students.  And, although the classes can be tiring at times due to the high (or sometimes, uncomfortably low!) energy level of the students, it is our hope that the students will continue to return each week!  Our classes range in both style and content in an attempt to encourage the students to be conversational in English.  We have taught praise and worship songs, such as Who am I and Blessed Be Your Name.  We have discussed breakfast and how it varies around the world.  We had a special Valentine’s Day lesson in which we discussed how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a secular way, but we also considered how as Christians we know of the greatest love, and how it has been demonstrated for us (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16).  We have also played a variety of games including Skip-Bo and spoons.  We have discussed personality and character and how to best describe the people in our lives … The list goes on and so does the variety!

The aim of these lessons is really two-fold; and interestingly, the students learning the English language is really neither of the two!  It is our hope and goal to build relationships with these students.  To not only know about them, but rather, to build relationships with them, to be approachable to them, welcoming and open, so that we might, by what we say, by what we do, and by how we live, present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.  And in doing so, achieve the second aim, to present them with a Christian World-View as it is lived out daily.  We are really glad and humbled that the Lord can use us in this endeavor.  I am reminded of a time when a former student of ours, now a dear friend, commented, “You know, we were always watching you two.  And we were especially curious by how you and Eric related to each other.  Not harsh, but in a thoughtful and kind manner.”  This remark blew us away!  To think that even our moment by moment interactions as a married couple are being so scrutinized by high school students!  Both humbling and scary for us!  What a reminder to take every thought captive for Christ!  Maybe that most succinctly conveys what the aim of these classes is, from 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  As well as Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, from 1 Timothy 4:12, to “…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  To, by the grace of God, by his Spirit dwelling in us, to be counter culture, even in the small day to day interactions, moment by moment, to let our lives reflect the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Peterfalva English Singing Club

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Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Psalm 95:1

During a week’s time, we are thankful to be a part of many different programs, lessons, Bible Studies, and the like.  But one of our favorite weekly programs occurs on Sunday evenings at the Hungarian Reformed boarding school in Peterfalva.  After the evening devotion, prayer, and singing, students who desire are invited to stay and learn English worship songs.   A group of about 20 students usually stay to sing and learn new English worship songs with us.  Some students attend because they like to sing, others because they want to practice their English language skills, and still others because they enjoy worshiping the Lord through music.

We are very thankful that Laci, one of the Dorm parents at the school, is an accomplished guitarist and with ease accompanies us as we sing.  One of the students, Mark, also plays the guitar very well and kindly shares his gift of music with us week after week.  Together they skillfully manage to make our noise undeniably more joyful!

Over the past weeks, we have enjoyed introducing the students to contemporary praise songs as well as treasured hymns.  Each week the students are quick to make songs requests.  Some of the frequently requested contemporary songs include Bless the Lord, O My Soul, You are My All in All, and Lord, I Need You.  Traditional hymns including Amazing Grace and God Himself is with Us have been quickly learned by the students and are also sung often.

Over the past couple weeks, we have been impressed with the students and their musicality, especially in a language that is not their mother tongue!  We asked the students if they would be interested in forming an English Singing Group and singing at various occasions.  To our surprise and delight, the students were eager for this opportunity.

Then, last week, in a nearby town called Beregszasz, the local Reformed young people hosted a week long Evangelization at the local Hungarian college.  Csilla, one of the university students involved in planning the Evangelization, invited us to come sing at the Evangelization.  So, in the days prior to, we practiced our songs, rented a bus that seated 26, and on a cold, damp, Wednesday evening drove the 50 kilometers to Beregszasz.  The evening began at 6:00 pm, so we departed for Beregszasz at 5:00 pm.  It doesn’t seem like such a distance, 50 kilometers, but the roads are in terrible condition, and while we thought we could get there with time to spare, we still managed to arrive five minutes late!  Immediately after the welcome was given, we were called up to the front to sing!  So, there was not really time to feel uneasy or nervous.  Our students and guitarists performed three songs: Bless the Lord, O My Soul, Amazing Grace, and Who am I?  We are very thankful to God that it went well.  The students sang simply and beautifully.

We were glad that we could be a part of the Evangelization, but we were also glad that these 20 students had the opportunity to hear the Gospel presented, as well to hear a personal testimony from a young lady who shared how the Lord has been at work in her life, and to partake in the worship service.  After the service was finished, we quickly departed, since it was a school night, and drove an hour back to Peterfalva.  Some of the staff at the school kindly waited for us with a hot supper upon our return.  It was a lovely evening and we were thankful for the opportunity to continue to develop relationships with these young people.

The students who participate really seem to enjoy learning new songs and singing together.  We also are glad for the opportunity, as it allows us to praise God in our mother tongue!  We continue to meet weekly on Sunday evenings, and we hope to have more opportunities to sing publically in the future.  We praise God for the opportunity to sing praises to his name, and also to proclaim his name to the nations.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  Psalm 95:1-2

 

Photo Credit: Norbert Tankóci

Video Credit: Debóra Seres

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

For many, International Women’s Day is a day heralding the many diverse achievements of women.  More recently, it has been a call to “accelerated gender parity” (http://www.internationalwomensday.com).  Despite its highly political sentiment for many, for others it has become likened to that of Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.  A day in which people express their love and affection for the women in their lives. The history of Women’s Day dates back as early as 1909, and some say was first celebrated in the U.S.A. during changing times as women struggled for civil rights.  Over the past century, the human rights movement has persistently brought the struggles of women to the forefront of society; to both humanity’s betterment, as many injustices against women have been quelled, but also to our detriment as God-ordained femininity has become increasingly murky in light of the pursuit of so called “gender parity”.

March 8 is the official date of International Women’s Day.  It is recognized as a state sanctioned holiday, and therefore, state institutions and schools are closed.  The Hungarian Reformed School in Peterfalva, however, remained open, but celebrated Women’s Day in a manner similar to that of Valentine’s Day.  In each of the four classes, the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, the boys made special plans to surprise their female classmates.  In the 9th class, for example, the boys, assisted by their history teacher, planned an afternoon party during a study hall of cupcakes, Coca-Cola, and red carnations for their female classmates.  I (Stacey) went looking for the 9th grade class in order to remind them of an English lesson; instead I was quickly shown to a seat at the table with the girl students, presented with a red carnation, and offered sweet treats to enjoy with the girls.  In the 10th class, the boys, made “palacsinta” or pancakes for the girls.  In the 11th class, the boys, armed with the help of their kind mothers, planned a special dinner for their female classmates and teachers at which they served the ladies, sang for them, and bestowed upon them a blessing.

Other local signs of International Women’s Day: the cooks in the kitchen at the school were given chocolate and flowers, the Pastor at the Reformed church presented all of the lady staff at the Reformed boarding school with flowers, and in the teacher’s staff room, the lady teachers were showered with flowers and chocolate.  Here in Transcarpathia, although International Women’s Day is observed, there is no political agenda.  Instead, there is a genuine heartfelt display of gratitude for the women in people’s lives, and it is seen as an opportunity to graciously express thanks to these women for the many different roles they fulfil.

A friend of mine shared on Facebook a poignant and meaningful message by John Piper, called The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood.  Below is the link.

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-ultimate-meaning-of-true-womanhood

In a world with an increasingly warped sense of masculinity and femininity, Piper succinctly conveys what “True Womanhood” is, with direct application for both the married and single woman.  To all the many precious ladies whom we call friends, family, and sisters in Christ, Happy Women’s Day!

A Different Type of Revolution

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Sometimes when crossing the border back into Ukraine after a long or short absence, the Beatles 1968 tune, “Back in the USSR” plays in my head, like a song that gets stuck, and plays like a broken record. I am not a big Beatles fan and I don’t know much about the song. I am guessing there are political dynamics and suggestive undertones in the lyrics that I would not be interested in or care to understand.  The only lyrics I can even sing is the catchy, “Back in the USSR, you don’t know how lucky you are, to be back in the USSR.” I don’t believe in luck and the USSR no longer appears on world maps, making the song obsolete or at best, a historical footnote of a bygone era. I am happy that the world has changed and that we are not back in the USSR.  The sickle and hammer back dropped in red has not flown in a quarter century.  This year will mark 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union when an independent Ukraine emerged from its ashes. A subtle and soft yellow and blue flag replaced the red that was reminiscent and symbolic of revolution and terror in the minds of many.  Ukraine, said to be the bread basket of the world fly’s colors of blue over yellow to denote a blue sky over a wheat field. I never tire of returning to Ukraine, the moment of crossing the border a calm, peaceful feeling of being at home fills me with joy.  We feel blessed to be able to live and work in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.  We are thankful to God for the opportunity to be at home in Transcarpathia, serving the Lord here.

Flawed, prone to moments of passivity, and failures of prideful self-interest, we recognize that we are truly nothing without Jesus Christ.  Our very best efforts amount to nothing but absolute failure without Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.  We pray that that God can use us through the work of the Holy Spirit and through grace alone to share the message of the Gospel and to support and encourage the faith of many brothers and sisters in Christ here in the borderlands of Eastern Europe.

These lands of Eastern Europe and the Ex-Soviet bloc are no stranger to revolution; the soil is soaked red in blood from centuries of world wars, turmoil, and insurrection. However, one more revolution is needed.  Not a revolution of class struggle, power, territory gain, or uprising, but a spiritual revolution. A renewing of the heart and an inner revolution of the soul that only God through the work of the Holy Spirit can bring to these lands.  Christ’s precious blood was shed for our sins and in this, Jesus bore the punishment that was ours.  Pray that this message of hope and life in Christ will fall upon open ears and receiving hearts.  The world is changing fast, spinning out of control with much uncertainty for the future.  What a comfort it is that God is sovereign and that not a hair can fall from our head apart from the will of our Heavenly Father.  We hope and pray that the people we work among will more and more turn to God, putting their faith in Jesus Christ, and in faith accept this gift of salvation through grace alone. We hope and pray that people around the world, in these uncertain times, will realize treasures of this world are not treasures at all, but only earthly things that will rot, decay and will not last, recognizing there is no hope, no future, no comfort outside of God and His Word, which is sharper than a double edged sword, piercing our hearts.